In the old days, studios, audio professionals/ engineers, and music artists used analog reel to reel machines and manually operated mixing boards for music-making. It was a labor-intensive, time-consuming process. The outcome had issues like distortion and noise.
But with the advancement of computers and other technology, a standalone Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and later the concept of DAW software was introduced to solve these problems.
What is DAW Software?
Digital audio workstation (DAW) software is a computer program that enables users to record, organize, edit, mix, refine, and playback audio files.
Some advanced music production software solutions even have video-related features these days. Hence, artists can quickly write, record, and produce professional quality music from anywhere. They can also be used by journalists, podcasters, voiceover artists, among others.
Together with DAW software, hardware components function as the complete digital audio workstation. The computer system on which it is accessed provides the necessary power and stores the audio data.
The input device can be a mouse, simple/ MIDI controller keyboard, and so on. A sound card or another audio interface converts the input audio to digital format.
How Is DAW Software Useful for Music Makers?
Music makers in-home, semi-pro, and professional recording studios can leverage the DAW software to do the following:
Recording and editing audio: With DAW software, users can record and playback multiple tracks at once using sequencers. It is possible to listen to the digital files as analog audio during editing of waveforms and tracks.
Mixing and refining audio tracks: You can use existing audio tracks and mix them to produce new music. You can also add effects like reverb, compression, delay, echo trend, and so on to enhance and modify sounds.
To prevent repetitive tasks, you can also set up audio processing automation. Many DAW software options will provide virtual studio technology (VST) plugins for additional effects.
Use virtual instruments:DAW software provides several options for virtual instruments which replicate the sounds produced by actual acoustic instruments such as guitar, piano, bass, violin, drum sets, and so on. This is done by translating MIDI data. You can use MIDI commands and keyboards for control.
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Key Features of Music Making Software
Most music making DAW or audio editing software consists of digital audio processors, virtual instruments, music notations, and MIDI sequencers. They are also present in any music maker or beat maker online. Key features of the music production software include:
- Recording from any audio source
With DAW software, you can record a singer’s voice or live instruments such as acoustic guitar or drum set separately or together. You can also record virtual instruments through a mouse, MIDI controller, keyboard, etc. Most popular DAWs have in-built virtual instruments.
- Audio Looping and editing
DAWs come with a loop library that consists of MIDI files for different instruments. You can also add your own audio and loop it. These files can be edited as per the requirements of the composition.
Editing is most important for expressing creativity through professional music. DAW software comes with numerous audio editing features and tools like cut, copy, paste, auto-trim, pitch shifting, delete, compression, and so on.
- Audio effects
Effects (FX) play a huge role in the final feel of the song and display the skills of an artist. With music maker tools, you can use different effect plug-ins such as autotune, chorus, reverbs, delays, and so on.
- Audio mixing
Once the composition has been recorded, arranged, and edited according to the requirements, you can go to audio mixing. DAW software includes numerous tools and options that you can add for properly blending all the sounds during production. Some even come with an in-built compressor and EQ plugins.
How to Choose Your Music Production Software?
DAW software differ from each other mainly in terms of features and workflow. Remember that you want to make music, so test different options to see what suits you the best. Some of the features to consider are:
- OS and hardware
Different DAW software systems are compatible with different operating systems and hardware components. Based on the system you and our team uses, you can make your decision. Prefer the cross-platform option in the market for easier collaboration.
Depending on your goals and deadlines, you need to check which DAW is the easiest to use for quickly producing songs. For example, you might want to work more with electronic music or print music sheets.
After all, you must not stop due to complex functionalities and bugs during production. Also, some music maker tools will have better integration features to support goals like live performances.
- Compatibility with audio plugins
Check which plugin formats the DAW software you are planning to get support. VST plugin format is the standard one that works on both Mac and Windows.
Another plugin format that the software can be compatible with is AU (Audio Unit), supported by Mac. Some DAWs have their own format, like Pro Tools which has RTAS (Real-time audio suite).
Depending on your budget, you must plan on first using a free or trial version of the DAW software before making the purchase. There are several music makers online too. You do not need excess features, especially if you are a beginner.
So, don’t purchase music software that you have to pay extra for the features you won’t use in the future. You can also look for offers and discounts before buying genuine music-making software.
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List of 14 Best DAW Software for Digital Audio Workstation
- Logic Pro X
- Ableton Live
- Magix Music Maker
- Cakewalk by BandLab
- Avid Pro Tools
- Serato Studio
- DarkWave Studio
- Apple GarageBand
- PreSonus Studio One Prime
- Akai MPC Beats
- Tracktion Software Waveform
Some of the best DAW software options are:
Audacity DAW is a free DAW software for multi-track audio editing and recording. It supports the import and export of several different audio formats.
You can use any virtual or real audio device that the main system for recording can access. With its Auto duck effect, users can create voiceovers for their DJ sets, podcasts, etc.
The music production software also has numerous tools for the analysis of audio and other signals.
- Macros for batch processing and command chaining
- Support for several audio plug-in formats like AU and VST
- Privacy and spyware concerns recently
- Lacks MIDI compatibility
Pricing: It is free music making software (GNU GPL Version 2).
Compatible Platforms: macOS 10.7-11, Windows 7-10, GNU/Linux, etc
Logic Pro X
Logic Pro X enables users to choose from its wide collection of tools for beat making, editing, mixing, and songwriting at a professional level. You can use royalty-free loops and kits for music production.
This beat maker software provides support for creating Dolby-Atmos powered tracks. Live loops allow brainstorming before recording the final version to the main timeline. You can even publish your creation on Apple Music.
- Wide range of instruments and effects
- Spatial audio support for plugins
- No copy protection
Cons: Not for Windows
Logic Pro X Price: It offers a free trial for 90 days. It is available for purchase at INR 17,900.
Compatible Platforms: macOS 11 or later, iOS/ iPadOS 14.0 or above.
Ableton Live music making software is a popular music production tool that enables multi-track recording and non-destructive editing. Its session view lets users quickly compose songs and improvise performances.
Mixing complex track arrangements becomes easier with different levels for tracking groups. Other features include linked-track editing, dynamic tempo adjustments, live time-stretching, track freeze, and so on.
- Fast and streamlined workflow
- Unlimited audio/ MIDI effects and instruments
Cons: Limited features with the Lite version
Ableton Lite Pricing: It offers a 90-day free trial. There are 3 editions- Intro, Standard, Suite. Pricing starts at INR 7433.96.
Compatible Platforms: Windows 10, macOS High Sierra 10.13 or later.
Cubase DAW software enables music composers and producers to speed up their workflow. It has combined selection tools for ranges and objects. The channel strip module provides advanced mixer quality.
There are options like time-stretching, in-place rendering, sample editing, audio alignment, and more for editing the audio. The latest version of this music software comes with a customizable audio analyzer and a personal scale assistant.
- Unlimited audio/MIDI/VST instrument tracks
- Cloud storage via embedded VST Transit, VST Connect SE 5
Cons: Shortcuts could be easier to learn.
Cubase Pricing: It offers a free 30-day trial. There are three software versions- Elements, Artist, Pro. Pricing starts at INR 8,691.74 for the paid Elements version. For students and universities, discounted pricing starts at INR 5,823.18.
Compatible Platforms: Windows 10 (64-bit), macOS Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur.
LMMS is open-source music-making software that enables users to compose, sequence, mix, or automate songs. LMMS software has an in-built visualization/spectrum analyzer for detailed graphical representation.
Piano Roll editor helps in fine-tuning notes, melodies, chords, and more. MIDI keyboard allows users to play music in real-time while performing or composing. The music maker also supports importing Hydrogen files.
- Instrument and effect plugins
- VST compatibility
Cons: Limited mixer rack
LMMS Pricing: It is free DAW software.
Compatible Platforms: Windows (32 bit/ 64 bit), Linux (64 bit), macOS 10.13+
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Magix Music Maker
Magix Music Maker is an AI-powered digital music making software that makes beat-making and music production simpler for beginners. You can drag and drop sounds from the library of samples and loops for different genres.
With LivePad, you can edit an entire song in real-time. The song maker software provides the option to record your voice or use the available voice samples.
- Customizable interface
- Plug-ins like Vintage FX Filtox and coreFX Delay
- Limited instruments
- Only on Windows OS
Magix Music Maker Pricing: Standard version is available for free. The Plus edition is priced at INR 4,450. For the premium version, pricing starts at INR 7430.
Compatible Platforms: Windows 7 or later
Cakewalk by BandLab
Cakewalk by BandLab enables artists and audio professionals to compose songs and record performances with different tools, tracks, and instruments. You can easily edit your recordings and create studio-level mixes.
The song maker software has a wide range of ProChannel modules, including dynamic compression, peak limiting, resonant filtering, tube saturation, and so on. You can share your songs directly on platforms like SoundCloud and YouTube.
- No limit on MIDI, audio, loop, instrument, auxiliary tracks
- Completely customizable Skylight UI
Cons: Works only on Windows
Cakewalk by BandLab Pricing: It is a free music making software.
Compatible Platforms: Windows 7 or higher (64-bit).
Avid Pro Tools
Avid Pro Tools software is an industry standard used in professional recording studios globally. You can use templates and navigation shortcuts to create songs based on different ideas quickly.
With Elastic audio feature, equalization, time-stretching, and pitch shifting can be applied to clips non-destructively. The latest workflow in this song maker software allows users to update tracks as well as timeline sections during playback.
- Avid Cloud Collaboration for remote teams
- Customizable classic and dark UI themes
Cons: Only 16 audio tracks and virtual instruments track in a session in free version.
Avid Pro Tools Pricing: The version Pro Tools First falls under the free music making software category. Pricing for individuals starts at INR 22408.555.
Students and teachers can get it at INR 7428.37/ year. Enterprises and institutions can get pricing on request. You can go for the Ultimate edition if you want more features.
Compatible Platforms: Windows 10 (64-bit), macOS 10.14.6 or above, iOS/ iPadOS, Android.
Serato Studio beat-making DAW software can create hip-hop beats, EDM tracks, house tracks, and much more. It has an intuitive interface and is easy to use for producers of all levels, from beginner to advanced.
It is possible to record from different sources like instruments, computer mics, and so on directly for editing. You can import melodies, chord progressions, and more files in various formats into the library, including .MID/.MIDI.
- Sample-based workflow
- Automatic Tempo and Key detection
- MIDI integration
- Limited decks and scenes
- Custom branding features needed
Serato Studio Pricing: This beat maker software has a free plan. However, the premium Version 1 is available for purchase at INR 14934.353. Subscription-based pricing starts at INR 748.701 per month.
Compatible Platforms: macOS Big Sur 11, Catalina 10.15, Mojave 10.14, Windows 10 (64-bit).
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DarkWave Studio is a free DAW software with a simple and user-friendly interface that makes it easy to start recording and postproduction editing. It provides a sequence editor, virtual studio, multitrack hard disk recorder, and more.
Users can easily create and edit patterns on songs via notes drag and drop with the pattern editor. Your project information is displayed in a separate tab.
- VST/ VSTi plugin support
- Good layout
- Support for ASIO (Audio stream I/O) Audio Driver
Cons: Only for Windows.
DarkWave Studio Pricing: It is free DAW software.
Compatible Platforms: Windows 7, 8, 10
Apple GarageBand is a highly popular DAW software among beginners, although it has some advanced features for professional music production. It has tutorials in over 40 music genres like pop, rock, classical, and more.
Users can develop and mix up to 255 tracks. It has a good sound library with software instruments, voice and guitar preset, and much more. After creating the song, you can save it as a ringtone, share it with others, or add it to the iTunes library.
- Pre-built upgrade path
- Intuitive UI
- Projects are compatible with Logic Pro and iOS mobile app
Cons: Only for Apple devices
Apple GarageBand Pricing: It is a free music production software.
Compatible Platforms: macOS 11.0 or above, iOS/ iPadOS 15.0 or later.
PreSonus Studio One Prime
Studio One Prime is the introductory version of the DAW software range offered by PreSonus. It provides an input mixer, drum machine, channel filter, sampling tool, step sequencer, and more.
With Track Transform feature, rendering instruments and audio tracks become fast and reversible. You can easily export audio in multiple formats without extra rendering time. In the latest version, Clip Gain Envelope tool enables the correction of audio sections that are too soft/ loud.
- No limit on tracks
- PreSonus Sphere integration for project collaboration
- Multiple free moving side-by-side editors for viewing tracks
- Cluttered Interface
- Needs a quick way to save track templates
Studio One Prime Pricing: Prime version comes under the free music production software category. Pricing for paid software starts at INR 6841.
You can also get PreSonus Sphere membership to have access to all the software options. Pricing for educational institutions is different.
Compatible Platforms: Windows 10 (64-bit), macOS 10.13 or later (64-bit).
Akai MPC Beats
Akai MPC Beats music-making platform is popular among beatmakers and hip-hop producers. You can use templates for different genres or choose from various loops, samples, and in-built instrument plugins.
This beat maker software has an information section and a sample editor to navigate between tracks for editing easily. Other features include pad and track muting, step sequencer, and so on. It is also compatible with several pre-mapped USB controllers like Alesis V-Mini, MPK Mini, and more.
- Browser for searching and selecting sounds
- VST/ AU compatibility
Cons: Limited tracks, sound effects, and recording features.
Akai MPC Beats Pricing: This is music production software. The Expansion Packs edition can be used for premium samples and kits.
Compatible Platforms: Windows 7, 8, 10, macOS 10.10-11.
Tracktion Software Waveform
Tracktion Software Waveform is a completely functional DAW software used by podcasters, bands, singers, among others. You can easily render, freeze, and sample audio in the system.
The music software has several tools for music creation like drum sampler, MIDI pattern generators, 4OSC virtual synthesizer, and so on. With the Wordplay plugin, you can easily store notes and summaries.
- Simultaneous recording and unlimited tracks in free version
- Constant save technology
- Plugin drag and drop
Cons; Interface can be confusing for standard users.
Tracktion Software Waveform Pricing: A free music production software version is available. The pro version offers a 90-day free trial. Pro pricing for the Basic edition starts at INR 8953.560. You can also go for Standard/ Extreme edition or create your custom bundle.
Compatible Platforms: Mac 10.11 or Later, Windows 8 & 10, Linux 8 & 10, Raspbian 10.
If you are interested, get started with your hands-on experience as soon as possible. There are numerous tutorials available for these software options.
Some of these are even compatible with portable devices for your mobile digital audio workstation. You can also check out any music or beatmaker online to get a better understanding if you are just starting out.
- Which is the best DAW for beginners?
Apple GarageBand is a great option if you are already using Mac. Otherwise, you can try free versions like Ableton Live Lite or open-source software like LMMS before upgrading.
- What is the best free DAW for beginners?
Some of the best free DAW software are Pro Tools First, Tracktion software waveform, and PreSonus Studio One Prime. You can also try music maker online.
- Which software is best for music production?
Some of the best music production software options for producing music include Logic Pro X, Audacity, and Cakewalk.
- Which software is best for making music?
Cubase, Akai MPC beats, and Magix Music Maker are some of the best-suited options for making music.